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The Perils of Text-Only Emails: Why Gap.com’s Email Went Right into the Trash


I received an email in my inbox yesterday that surprised me. It was from Gap.com advertising an “Extra 25% Off for a Limited Time Only”.

I have been on Gap.com’s mailing list for quite some time (as well as the lists from Banana Republic and Old Navy) and while I rarely purchase from them, I often open them to see how they have designed their emails, how they showcase their products, and how they promote their offers.

The emails from Gap.com tend to be clean. Concise. Branded. They tend to have a strong visual cohesion to Gap.com. They also do a great job of evoking the same emotional pull that their TV advertising does.

Not this time.

This time, I was lured by a decent subject line, clicked to pen and was met with this: A text-only email with a lot of links. See below.

Here’s why this text-only email from the Gap went right into the trash can.

It’s Out of Character
As I mentioned before, I have been receiving emails from Gap.com for quite awhile and this is the first time I have received a text-only one. I understand the desire to test this option but for me (and I suspect many others) Gap.com is a brand that has conditioned me to expect something more visual.

Looks Like Phishing
Upon first glance, this looks like a phishing scam. Or at best, a ploy to learn more about discount drugs from Mexico. If you took the time to really investigate, you aren’t met with any additional clues that make you feel that much better.

For example: If you go to Gap.com you do see a Limited Time Only offer listed on the homepage. But the promo code for that offer is “GIFT123″ a different naming convention from the one listed in the email, “GAPSALE25″ Now I have been strategizing promo codes for over 10 years so I understand why this could happen. But what is troubling is both the offer on the website and the offer on the email are the same, “25% off for a Limited Time”. That gets dicey in most people’s minds.

The Links
This point is the main reason I feel this text-only version will inevitably fall below Gap.com’s expectations. The text links to the offers are long links clearly tagged to link to my name and email address. But the main domain clicks to gap.r.delivery.net. Now I know that delivery.net is the domain used by Acxiom Digital, and email marketing services provider. But for those who have been warned against internet scams, they are trained to not trust subdomains like this.

This is not a problem when an HTML email has these links attached to a graphic button or hidden in a text link. Becasue a click through hits this URL and then instantly redirects to Gap.com. But in a text-only email, those URLs are exposed and thus scary for people.

I think that it is great that Gap.com is trying new things to get casual customers like me to take notice. But let this be a warning to marketers who are trying out text-only emails: there are a lot of considerations to be made before launching.